To the Moon makes its world premiere at this year’s Nightstream Film Festival. Written and directed by Scott Friend, who also stars in the film, To the Moon is brilliantly creative and funny, tip-toeing around tense relationships. As the film builds towards a breaking point, it’s all at once wacky, relatable, endearing, and sad.
To The Moon centers on married couple Dennis and Mia as they retreat to Dennis’s remote family home to focus on their relationship. While the two of them are trying to get away to focus on fixing some recent problems they’ve been having, their trip is quickly disrupted when Dennis’s older brother Roger shows up.
Roger is a yellow jump-suited character, whom they first see doing weird bouncy yoga in the yard. Played by Will Brill, Roger seems like a brazenly eccentric, but kind person. He’s also surprisingly full of wisdom, though a lot of that wisdom is armchair psychiatry and spiritual one-liners. Dennis and Roger had previously been estranged from one another. Roger has clearly been through some things, and he’s ready to help his brother through what he’s currently going through. Dennis, on the other hand, doesn’t trust his brother – he’s very different from the Roger he used to know.
Dennis, an actor (played by Scott Friend) is going through some sort of drug withdrawal. He’s been substance-free for about a week, and he’s having a rough go of it. It seems like he and Mia had been having a rough go of it, generally, but Mia (Madeleine Morgenweck) is kind and forgiving and wants to move on. Her kindness extends to Roger, too; she’s very accepting and inquisitive towards him, excited to spend time with her husband’s brother.
If you’ve ever loved someone who’s an addict and a liar, you’ll likely find yourself rooting for Mia, and empathizing with her. This makes the film’s final act all the more shocking as Dennis’s withdrawals take a hallucinatory turn and the audience isn’t sure what to trust. To the Moon toes the line between family comedy/drama and suspense throughout; in the final scenes of the film, there’s a jump towards suspense. While sometimes abrupt tonal shifts can be jarring, Friend’s direction keeps an even pace as To the Moon reaches a satisfying and humorous conclusion.
With just three performances – each of them inventive and subtle, the actors embodying the characters like they’re playing themselves – To the Moon is understated and almost subliminal in it’s delivery of these excellent performances and underhanded themes. Will Brill’s performance is memorable, as one of the best and most original performances of the year.
Nightstream takes place virtually from October 7 – October 13
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